Growing Food Indoors

A Great Indoor Permaculture Adventure

Growing food indoors is easy, costs very little and gives us immediate health benefits. 

Like most things we do in Permaculture, there are multiple benefits to every action. Growing food indoors cuts our waste and supplies nutritious food. And indoor permaculture also provides opportunities for design practice, mindfulness, and self-reliance. And we can surround ourselves with naturally cleaned air.

Quick Design Tools For Indoor Food Production

Indoor food growing benefits from a these permaculture design principles:  Zoning, Stacking and Mindfulness through Observation.

Indoor Food Zones

When we design a Permaculture project, we set aside zones according to how often we will use something. Items that need a lot of care or provide us with lots of interaction and reward go into Zone 1. The items that don’t need much attention or prefer we ignore them go into the furthest recesses of our space.

Zone 1 – Your Nursery

Rooms with sunlight deserve to be decorated with young plants. The indoor garden ‘nursery’ houses your new seedlings and chitting off-cuts. Growing food indoors is easy if you simply buy plants. However, you can raise a lot of plants without expense by propagating from the foods you buy at the grocery store.

Zone 2 – Shrubbery

Smaller plants include Aloe Vera, spring onions, Peppermint, Ginger, Turmeric, KangKong, Thai Basil, tiny Tomatoes, Chives, Garlic chives (essential for savoury pancakes) and Sweet Potato. Medium size plants include Taro, Monstera Deliciosa and Sugarcane. The easiest plants to grow are those that thrive in muddy water. Sugarcane, Peppermint and spring onions will grow in water.

Position each plant according to how much sunlight it needs. As a general rule, the lighter the leaf of a plant then the more sunlight it needs. Those plants with dark-coloured leaves tolerate shade. 

Zone 3 – ‘Canopy’ Trees

There are some larger plants that thrive indoors. These include Fig, Coffee bushes, Lime tree, Mulberry, Curry Leaf, Banana and Bamboo. Banana plants are quick growing and the leaves are useful to wrap foods. Bamboo is a delightful tea rich in Silicone to make your hair shine. Zone 3 plants need to be back from the window, allowing the littler shrubbery and nursery sufficient access.

Big plants need big pots otherwise the tall plants fall over. However, big pots don’t have to be dragged into the home. Here’s a lighter trick you can use. Keep your larger potted plants in a snug bucket of water and drill a hole in the side of the bucket at the level of the bottom of the pot. There are varieties of wicking pots to try. Wicking pots are heavy because they hold water underneath the suspended potted plant. Additionally, closed wicking pots conserve water and because the water is not open to the air, they do not encourage mosquitos.

Sweet tiny banana grown in Mt Kembla
Sweet tiny banana

Zone 4 – Productive Dark Pockets

Areas in the home that are dark are ideal for ferments, sprouts and mushrooms. South Korea still has tunnels that were used during the war. Each soldier was issued with bean seeds to sprouts whilst they were underground. Luckily, sprouts are more nutritious than the seed by itself

Dark areas can also include an indoor worm farm. However, for good hygiene practices, keep food products such as the mushroom farm in a separate room from waste processing such as Bokashi or worm-farm.

Zone 5 – Keeping a Healthy Wilderness

Dust balls, insects and fungi will still reside in your home. You can still keep the home clean as well as keeping it green. The easiest way to remove bugs is by vacuuming. If you need to spray pests, use Methylated spirits. On the whole, there are fewer pests on indoor plants than outdoors plants. The key to good pest control is diversity. Have a wide variety of plants and avoid monocropping.

Stacking

Stacking your potted plants is a great way to save space and water. Simply put small pots on the surface of larger pots. The smaller pots can drain into the bigger pot, and provide some cooling mulch. The little pots will also enjoy the lift, getting closer to any natural light. If you only have a high window, you can hang pots. As the plant grows you slowly lower the pot. This is particularly useful for growing vines such as grapevine.

Stacking is a utilised in our indoor worm-farm. The upper level is a potted herb, the next level down contains the worm farm. At the bottom is a reservoir holding the fertilised water.

Mindfulness and Mental Vigour

The act of caring for something (such as our favourite food plant) improves our mental well being. Seeing the progress of our seeds is a slow yet rewarding mindful exercise.

Best of all, an indoor plant is a gentle reminder of our own need for natural light and regular water. When the plant is happy, the conditions are better for us too.

Getting Into The Permaculture Zone

Permaculture Zoning

This permaculture design was created by April 15 years ago and has travelled the world extensively. It has been used to promote courses and workshops in many countries.
zones are used in permaculture design

Zoning isn’t something you do on a yoga mat but it can be used to design anything from a farm, a work station, garden, home, kitchen, caravan, tent, luggage, handbag or even a wallet.

Zoning is a Permaculture design technique that positions the elements (like herbs, trees, chicken house) in our design in areas according to their need or our use. The greater the needs or use of the element, then the closer we place it.

The beauty of Zoning is its flexibility. This design tool is scale-able.

The design tool called Zoning can be applied on large farms, city apartments, urban homes,  kitchen design,  and even in the design or re-design of a little bag. (You can redesign a bag by inserting pockets, wallets or compartments. In the same way we can re-design a property by using fencing for the zones).

A Little Bag of Zones

Many bags have the knack of swallowing items and scrambling them.  That’s because they are not designed for function but usually for looks. We can apply the design technique of zoning to the re-organisation of a bag (a handbag, a sports-bag or regularly used luggage).  Everyday important items such as keys, phone, and medicine would be kept in upper pockets or pouches (the Zone 1 are) and less regularly used items would be allowed to sink into lower Zones. Finally, the forgotten items will drift into the far recesses of the bag.

handbags can have design zones too

It’s not us – it’s them!

Not all items that we need will like being kept in easy reach, in Zone 0. It might seem wonderful to have a tree that produced fruit salad or a herb garden that gave us all our favourite herbs. The reality is, not all fruit likes full sunlight, and not all herbs like to grow in pots. Sometimes the best zone for an element is determined by the needs of that particular element.

Zoning The Herbs

hills_hoistarium

When we use herbs regularly, like our tea herbs, we can keep some of them in easy reach by planting them in pots on the kitchen window sill in (Zone 0). This suits the peppermint but not really a green tea bush which prefers space to grow into a small tree and likes to live on the edge of the forest (Zone 3). Other herbs might only be available when in season (like Coriander), and prefer a protected nook in Zone 2. Exotic herbs like Ginger and the bay tree might need to grow in the forest so we plant them in Zone 4. The herbs in Zone 5 could include rare indigenous herbs.

Zoning On a Bigger Scale

zones-picIn a larger scale Permaculture design we break the design up into Zones according to the amount of attention and space each area requires:
Zone 0. The Home. Indoor production (sprouts/ferments) and processing of food, waste,
water collection, repairs and education.
Zone 1.  The area outdoors that needing regular observation, tending and harvesting
eg. plants we can browse and use each day.- intensive garden beds with keyhole access.
Zone 2. This area has less intensive managed areas but with animals needing daily attention eg. poultry, rabbits, worm farm, snail farm. Orchard trees.
Zone 3. Occasionally visited areas with self-fed animals (stock) and seasonal wide-ranging crops eg. corn, wheat, rice, pumpkin, bamboo.
Zone 4. Wild food gathering (eg. nuts, native fruits) Wood for Fuel, self seeding trees.
Zone 5. A Natural area – a rarely visited area. This zone is best linked with neighbouring wildlife corridors. This can be sometimes managed to reduce risk of catastrophes ie. fire, pollution, drought or hurricanes.
Zone 6: The greater bio-region or social context.

Zoning is a powerful permaculture design tool. It is used in conjunction with other design tools such as sector planning, analysis of elements and connecting the relationships of elements.  Learn more about Permaculture. Enjoy doing a Permaculture Design Course with us!

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